What is a ceilidh?

A ceilidh (kay-lee) or a barn dance is an evening of simple, fun folk dances, done to live music, with a caller to explain the moves. Dances are done in groups (“sets”) and are made up of simple moves like circling, galloping, swings and do-si-dos. Before each dance there’s a walk-through where the caller explains all the moves. The caller keeps prompting over the music until it’s all second nature.

Ceilidhs are perfect for:

  • Wedding receptions
  • Special birthday parties and anniversaries
  • Evening entertainment for conferences
  • Welcome events or leavers’ balls
  • Community events such as village dances, PTA events, socials for clubs.

Helpful info for organisers

Ceilidhs are usually between one and three hours long. For anything longer than an hour it’s appropriate to have a twenty minute break in the middle. The timings, venue, and expectations should be decided on in advance of the event to avoid disappointment or miscommunication. Any special requests should be made known as far in advance as possible to ensure the band and caller have time to prepare.

Some people choose to have both a ceilidh and a disco at their event, such as at weddings. As a courtesy to the caller and band, please don’t put a disco in the interval or before us.  Ceilidhs tend to work better earlier in the evening and putting a DJ in the middle of the ceilidh tends to affect the mood.  We’ll happily put some incidental music on our play your music through our PA during any breaks.

If booked, Charlotte will arrange for a live band, and this will be included in the quoted fee. The band and caller will bring any necessary PA system. This ensures the band are mixed correctly and, importantly, that everyone can hear the music and the caller! All your venue will need is to have sockets for the PA to be plugged into.

Ceilidhs work best on wooden floors. However, they can still work on tile, stone, carpet, tarmac and even on grass!

A NOTE ON HAY BALES – These seem like a really good idea but they are awful for people with hayfever and dust allergies.  The dust also has the potential to damage some of our instruments, if possible please don’t use them unless you really are in a barn.

Flat, comfy shoes are the most fun to dance in, so if your guests will be in heels they might want to bring a pair of flats for the evening.

Contra? Playford?

Contra dancing is English ceilidh mixed in with American influences. Similar to ceilidh, but predominately in long sets of people with more spinning and less skipping. Often contra dance evenings also include square dances: quicker dances formed from “square” sets of four couples.

Playford dancing is an umbrella term for dances originating from or strongly influenced by collections of dances from the 17th Century, gathered by Henry Playford and, later, more recent collectors like Pat Shaw. Typically these dances are more elegant, simpler dances which can still be danced with style and energy.

Charlotte greatly enjoys all these types of dancing, and hopes this comes across in her calling.